Letters

Letters to
the editor

Let’s figure out our foreign aid

Congratulations to Mike Seccombe for his excellent piece “Teething on the campaign trail” (May 14-20). But his claims about aid increases only to Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia do not seem right to me. First, according to Allocations to DFAT country, regional and global programs (2015-16 Revised Budget Estimate and 2016-17 Budget Estimate) Fiji also gets a little more overseas development aid (for Cyclone Winston recovery). On page 7 a number of Pacific Island states get a little top-up (PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati and Nauru). And then on the next page Cambodia gets $1 million more than the 2015-16 estimate and Laos and Nepal get a little more extra each. Overall the aid situation is indeed shameful, and Australia should be doing a lot more. But right now I would like to know what is going on in Cambodia. I suspect the country has actually suffered a significant drop in aid from Australia. My understanding is that it was a case of “take our refugees or lose your aid funding”. I can’t say I approve of the current Cambodian regime, but such bullying tactics would suggest an Australian government that “negotiated” in such a manner, and left programs helping people in need high and dry, would be no better.

– Rilke Muir, Kensington, Vic

Following the story

I’m thankful for the article by John Martinkus (“Silenced protest”, May 14-20) regarding the suppression of rights in Papua, and I would like to remind your readers that Australia’s largely silent “mainstream” media once were more vocal about the plight of West Papuans. For example, in a Courier-Mail article dated August 26, 1999, Antony Balmain wrote: “Previously secret documents show Australia played a leading ... role to ensure Irian Jaya became part of Indonesia in ... 1969 ... Australia, at the request of Indonesia, arrested and prevented two pro-independence West Papuan leaders from travelling to the UN, just weeks before the vote on self-determination. The two men, Willem Zonggonao, 26, and Clemens Runawery, 27, were detained when they crossed the border in to Australian-administered New Guinea, carrying testimonies from many West Papuan leaders calling for independence and for the UN to abandon the Act of Free Choice.” West Papua soon after became a part of Indonesia after only “1025 West Papuans, selected by Indonesia, voted on behalf of the entire population of 800,000”. Australia may well have had legitimate reasons for supporting Indonesia in 1969, but not anymore. We now have a moral obligation to act in support of West Papuans. All strength to the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, I say.

– Allan Tonks, Toowong, Qld

Nobel argument

I was interested to read Paul Boon’s letter (“Staying real on economics prize”, May 14-20), and thought I was wiser about the status of the “Nobel” prize in economics, a topic on which I was ignorant, and remain agnostic. The Nobel prize website (nobelprize.org), however, does not bear out Mr Boon’s claims that the prize is “not a real Nobel prize” and that the Nobel family and selection committee do not wish to be associated with it. The website clearly distinguishes and explains the name and history of the prize, but includes it and its recipients in its list of prizes and laureates. The laureate is selected by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, following the Nobel Foundation statutes, on the advice of a committee invariably constituted (Wikipedia tells me) by economics professors and scholars. Nor can I support Mr Boon’s claim that “many winners of the genuine article have said the awarding of the economics prize debases their achievements”. A 2007 New York Times article reports consternation about the conservative ideology of the economic work that is awarded, as does a 2013 article in The Economist. It seems to me that the “Prize in Economic Sciences”, as the Nobel prize website calls it, has credibility as a “real” prize but – as with many of the Nobel prizes – the recognised work of its recipients could be the subject of analysis and comment.

– Professor Simon Rice, Queens Park, NSW

The definition of sport

One way I share my enthusiasm for The Saturday Paper with the uninitiated is by saying “... and on top of the very best journalism, this paper features women on the sports page!” Well, Dakota Brandenburg (Erin Riley, “Taking stock”, May 14-20) is a young woman with spunk and courage but that is not enough to make rodeo a sport. A spectacle where animals are deliberately tormented and/or trained into behaviours that are not natural and that risk harm to the animal is not a sport. False contests of strength and force between man and animal are never consensual. We have heard it all before. “I love the bulls ... I wish people could see that side, the love we have for them.” The exact tone circus lion and elephant tamers used to employ. It’s called rationalisation. Dakota may believe bulls enjoy extended and furious bucking in loud arenas but don’t expect readers to stomach this naive, nostalgic nonsense.

– Cassandra Pollock, Wangaratta, Vic

A history of verbosity

I sympathise with Ben Brooker’s annoyance at being confronted with a super-sized sentence of 153 words (Letters, “Craven treatment of sentence”, May 14-20). Apparently, long sentences and death go together. While recently researching my family, I came across a newspaper report of a coronial inquiry that took place in a shed at the rear of a Sydney hotel in the 1870s. I have no idea how or in what form the daughter of the deceased presented her evidence, but it was reported as one continuous sentence of 343 words, punctuated by 24 semicolons and 17 commas. Fortunately, the death certificate was a model of brevity. Death by “serious apoplexy”.

– Milton Hill, Oatley, NSW

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 21, 2016. Subscribe here.